Who offers a better business class product between the USA and Germany, Lufthansa or United?
I have recently flown both carriers in business class and will do a side-by-side comparison using the following 10 metrics:
- Ground Services
- IFE +Wi-Fi
- Amenity Kits
Both United and Lufthansa offer dedicated check-in lines at airports for business class passengers. Neither offer car service or escorts on the basis of purchasing a business class ticket. Both have exceptional apps that allow for online check-in and issuance of boarding passes.
Lufthansa and United business class passengers have access to the same network of lounges: United-operated in the USA and Lufthansa-operated in Germany. Since passengers flying either airline have access to the same lounges, you might think that this category will also be a draw, but there is one distinction.
United has introduced a series of excellent Polaris Lounges, which are now available in four cities:
The one advantage to flying United is that you are granted access to these Polaris lounges if you are connecting to or from Polaris-branded (longhaul) business class. Let’s say you are traveling from Frankfurt to Houston on United then on to Las Vegas. If you are a business class passenger on United’s Frankfurt to Houston flight, you can access the Polaris Lounge in Houston upon arrival while waiting for your connection to Las Vegas. But if you take Lufthansa from Frankfurt to Houston in business class, or even in first class, then connect on the same flight to Las Vegas, you will not have access to the Polaris Lounge or even the United Club (absent Star Gold status). That’s the benefit of flying United: lounge access throughout the journey, not just at the airport prior to your longhaul flight.
With Lufthansa, you only have one seat choice, pictured below.
This is a fully lie-flat bed, but note that the seats angle in toward on another on many aircraft, meaning your feet will just be mere inches from your neighbor’s when in the lie-flat mode.
United flies three different business class products between the USA and Germany. One option is United’s latest Polaris business class, which I just reviewed earlier today:
Every seat in this cabin has direct aisle access and I find it to be a very comfortable seat.
United also uses a B/E Diamond seat, as pictured below, aboard all of its 787 Dreamliner and select 777-200 and 767 aircraft. These were the seats used by pre-merger Continental Airlines.
Finally, you may end up with United’s most congested business class configuration across some 777-200s, which feature eight across in business, 2-4-2. I have no trouble sleeping on these seats, but they are incredibly narrow and lack personal storage.
Last-minute aircraft swaps are not uncommon, so until the entire 767 and 777 fleet has been retrofitted with the new Polaris seats, understand you might wind up with a different business class product than you were anticipating. The 787-8 and 787-9 aircraft will not receive new business class seats, but the 787-10, which will be delivered in early 2019, will have Polaris Business Class seats.
Verdict: United Polaris > United B/E Diamond Seat > Lufthansa > Old 8-across United Business Class
United offers Saks Fifth Avenue bedding, including a plush pillow, day blanket (throw), and comforter. Cooling gel pillows are now also standard and mattress pads are available.
Lufthansa offers plush blankets, a mattress pad, and smaller pillow in business class.
Service is extremely hit or miss, though the notion that Lufthansa always offers superior service is patently false. United’s FAs tend to be more seasoned, which can be a good thing or bad thing. Most still love their jobs and this is demonstrated in the folksy, friendly service offered onboard. Some, however, should have retired years ago and make the flight experience dismal by failing to make eye contact or bat a smile.
I was not pleased with the service on my last Lufthansa flight. The FAs were young, but sloppy and not very attentive. This seems to be a growing problem in Lufthansa Business Class: based on the comments in my review, my experience was hardly unique.
Food is often a matter of personal taste, but both Lufthansa and United offer very edible airline meals. They are still airline meals: I would not call the food truly outstanding on either carrier, but both offer multi-course meals after takeoff, snacks throughout the flight, and a light pre-arrival meal.
I very much enjoyed the main course on my last Lufthansa flight, but did not find the appetizers memorable. Even worse, the pre-arrival soup + salad (standard on all flights to the USA) was poor: the soup was cold and salad wilted.
United has fancy new crockery, but I am not convinced the food is any better than it has been for the last several years. Appetizers are also generally forgettable though main courses tend to be quite good. For that reason, I’ll give United the slight edge, but this is close.
United offers a more robust dessert menu than Lufthansa, with ice cream sundaes, cheese, and petit fours.
Lufthansa offers fruit, cheese, and ice cream or yogurt in a plastic container, which is unbecoming of business class.
Alcohol + Other Beverages
Lufthansa’s wine list offers a better quality of wines than does United. Both offer bottled water, soft drinks, juices, and spirits. Lufthansa has a larger tea selection than United and also offers espresso, something United is desperately lacking.
IFE + Wi-Fi
United’s new IFE system is much easier to navigate than Lufthansa’s system. Both, however, contain about the same number of Hollywood movies, TV shows and games. Lufthansa includes a greater selection of movies from around the world and also a large audio library. United offers virtually no musical selections.
Both United and Lufthansa offer wi-fi internet on flights between the USA and Germany. I find Lufthansa’s system a bit more stable/dependable than United’s, but both are slow. Depending upon the flight, United’s wi-fi costs 25-30% more than Lufthansa.
Amenity kits change seasonally, but Lufthansa is currently offering very functional amenity kits that serve as reusable bags, like the shopping bag on my last flight:
United’s kit is in a metal canister that may be reused as pencil box or storage container, but is less useful. That said, the contents in United’s kit are more useful. I appreciate the Cowshed amenities and find the eye mask and socks are of higher quality than Lufthansa.
Lufthansa has windows in some of its lavatories…that alone is enough for me to award this category to Lufthansa. On a serious note, Lufthansa restrooms tend to be cleaned more often and offer some additional amenities like shaving kits and mouthwash. While United offers really nice Cowshed amenities in its business class lavatories, Lufthansa has the slight edge here.
The most important thing about business class, as far as I am concerned, is the seat. Thus, I’d choose United in all cases except for the older eight across 777-200s. United offers a more comfortable seat, better bedding, and enhanced privacy over the Lufthansa seat. You’ll find good meals, hit/miss service, the same lounges, and similar ground services on both airlines.
Which do you prefer, Lufthansa or United?